1 Samuel 4:1-11; Ps 44 Redeem us, Lord, because of your mercy; Mark 1:40-45
A tragedy occurs in the life of Israel. Their one great asset is taken from them, snatched right out of the palm of their hands. The one thing that set them apart is gone.
The ark of the covenant, God's presence on earth has been lost, or at least so it seems.
Why could such a thing happen? How could such a thing happen?
The Israelites presumed that God would do what they thought should be done. They wrongly believed that God was their bellhop. They did not let God be God, which for us always remains as a starting point in our relationship or relationships.
The Israelites did not give themselves fully to God but rather were using God for their own ends. Tragically this repeats itself over and over again in our lives.
However, it is in their defeat they will discover the truth of God's presence and how God works for them. The humility of defeat brings them to their knees and out of themselves and thus in looking upward they are able to see more clearly who God is for them.
In the gospel we have a truly moving event.
Jesus continuing his city to city tour of preaching and healing encounters a leper and not only does he heal the leper but more importantly he reaches out and touches the leper.
This was unheard of. In touching the leper, Jesus contracts the ritual contagion of leprosy and thus becomes one with the leper, entering his life of isolation. Jesus becomes one with this alienation and illness that was so divisive in his time.
Jesus was not afraid to enter into the depths of human misery and thus identify with all of humanity at every level.
Only when our wounds are touched can they truly be healed. The leper though taught by his culture to shy away from human contact is not afraid to let Jesus touch his wound. This too took great courage.
When Jesus touches the leper he is putting his entire professional and religious reputation on the line. He does this out of love. The eye of the critics were watching closely looking for a reason to condemn him and yet nevertheless he deliberately cast aside his reputation according to the world and reaches forth and touches the wound of the leper.
What is the price of this gesture of love? Jesus, according to the gospel, is no longer able to enter the towns openly. He remained outside in deserted places. He took on the life of the leper. Jesus became unclean and contemptible in the eyes of the world.
This passage invites us to courage. Too often we are too cautious to step out of the imaginary line of prudence or safety. At some point we need to trust in the freedom of God to work behind the lines of our own comfort.
If we go to the book of revelation ch 21:8, we see the new heavens and the new earth. The fulfillment has come and God reigns supreme. On the list of those who are not allowed to experience the fullness of glory, the first listed are the cowards or the cautious.
Where do we stand? Jesus threw caution to the wind in order to live truly his identity and to invite others to live their true identity as well. He touched the wounds and wholeness was revealed.
What do we touch? What do we avoid? Where does caution breakdown and become a hindrance for growth and true encounter with God?
Courage is what will lead us to the fulfillment of our desires, the very desires God has given to us.